Tour Spotlights Environmental Injustice in Coachella Valley

"THERMAL, Calif. — Community activists in Southern California's Coachella Valley have been toiling for years along the eastern rim of this crescent-shaped breadbasket to spread the word about the abandoned waste dumps, shoddy migrant housing and overburdened recycling facilities that are a fact of life in this poor, farmworker community.

Their work paid off last month, when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state regulators cracked down on a soil recycling plant that was blamed by air quality officials for a putrid stench that sickened dozens of children and teachers at a nearby school.

Now, the groups are taking advantage of that national spotlight — including a visit from U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer — to press for similar action at other toxic sites that dot the remote valley, from an abandoned and illegal dump to a mountain of human sewage that locals dubbed Mt. San Diego because it was trucked in from San Diego County.

Activists will take state lawmakers and state and federal regulatory officials on an 'environmental justice' bus tour Friday with stops at a laundry list of sites that represent potential environmental hazards. It's the second such tour the group has organized this year since forming an environmental task force that includes officials from all levels of government, with the goal of improving living conditions in the sun-baked Coachella Valley."

The Associated Press had the story June 17, 2011.

Friday, June 17, 2011